How to protect your vacant property from vandals, squatters
It’s common for sellers to experience a degree of stress when selling their home. These feeling can be amplified if the seller no longer lives there and the home is vacant. The reality is that while most people are hard-working, law-abiding citizens, there is a portion of society that is not. A vacant home can be an easy target for vandals and the chance of the home being broken into increases.
Regional director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, Adrian Goslett, says that when selling a vacant property it is necessary to take precautions to ensure that the home remains in its best possible state.
“An unoccupied home is more vulnerable to criminals, so it is important to ensure that extra caution is taken,” says Goslett.
He provides a number of tips that can be practiced to protect the property during the sale period:
Contact the local police station in the area and alert them of the fact that the property is currently vacant. As a tax-paying resident of the local municipality, the seller has a right to request that the police keep an eye on the property while it is vacant. Many stations will be happy to take note of the vacant property and make additional drive-bys in the neighbourhood. Contacting the local police station can reduce the possibility of a problem with the home.
Contact the neighbours
If possible, alert the neighbours that the property is for sale and is currently vacant. Ask them to keep an eye on the property and make contact if there is anything they think needs your attention. Many neighbourhoods will have a watch or association that will patrol the area. It is also possible to ask the real estate agent to check on the property periodically between showings.
Install a security system
If the home does not already have an alarm system, installing a system will protect the property while adding value. Security is a top priority among buyers, so homes with security systems generally sell for higher premiums.
Although the home is unoccupied, it does not need to be completely empty. If the home is on the market, there is a good chance that the agent will want to take photos of the interior of the home. Ideally the photos should either be taken with the furniture still in the home before the seller moves out or with a few small choice pieces. Not only will this make the property seem more homely, it will also prevent criminals who are looking online to see the property as an easy target.
This is more than just ensuring that the front and back doors are locked. Securing entrances also refers to closing the windows securely and bolting the glass sliding door. Pay attention to any area in the home that could be used to gain entrance. Extra precautions could include adding deadbolts to all the doors and installing wooden or metal sticks in sliding door tracks.
An overflowing mailbox and stacks of newspapers at the front door is a sure giveaway that the home is not occupied. If possible, ensure that the mail is retrieved on a regular basis. Sellers can also ask neighbours, friends and relatives to help out by stopping by the property occasionally to empty the mailbox. It is vital that the seller informs the Post Office and all relevant parties of the change of address as soon as possible so that the mail is forwarded to the correct address – this will eliminate the chance of an overflowing mailbox.
Install a timer on the lights
Installing a timer and setting the lights to turn on in the evening will give the appearance that there are people in the home while being energy efficient. It is important that there is sufficient lighting for both the interior and exterior of the home. A poorly lit exterior will allow criminals the comfort of not being seen by people passing the home. Motion activated lighting is an ideal security feature and selling point.
Maintain the exterior of the home
An uncut lawn and overgrown shrubs will be a sure sign that the property is vacant. It is important for the seller to maintain the exterior of the home regularly, ensuring that the grass is cut and the flower beds are watered and maintained. A well-maintained home with curb appeal is evidence that the home is visited often. Not only will maintaining the home deter trespassers, it will also make the home more attractive to prospective buyers.
“Although selling a vacant property can be stressful, using these tips can help to ensure that the process goes smoothly and without any issues,” says Goslett. “Using an experienced real estate professional from a reputable brand will also expedite the process and ensure a quick and seamless sale.”